Sunday, 23 January 2011

Fear of men and unbelief

For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.
- 1 Corinthians 1:22-24

I realised that I didn't really believe this. I kept on hoping to persuade a non-Christian by showing how reasonable and intelligent Christian faith is. I was trying to make sure that the hearer understood that I was no fool by anyone's standard. I was giving so much effort into presenting the Christian faith in a way that sounds smart and reasonable. I was hoping that they wouldn't classify me as one of those "crazy Evangelicals" on TV, or fanatical Muslims, or ridiculously religious looking Hindus, and so on. I just didn't want to look foolish.

I foolish I have been indeed.

Faith in Jesus actually is the most beneficial, smartest, wisest decision anyone could make, but to outsiders, it'll never look that way. And the bible so plainly says so. What have I been trying to do all this while?

It was my insecurity and fear of men. It was my unbelief in the power of God in the gospel of Jesus. It crippled me in preaching the gospel, and robbed me of the joy and confidence in God's power. Instead, just as I feared, my arguments only fell to the ground and didn't penetrate the hearers' conscience or logic. I tried. I failed. Thank God I failed, otherwise I might have boasted in my "evangelism."

Oh, save me, Lord, from my idols of reputation and acceptance before men. May I be like those apostles who rejoiced when they were flogged because they were counted worthy of suffering for the Name of Lord (Acts 5:41). May I be secure in what You say, that I am your beloved son and you count me as pure and blameless, washed spotless. May I trust in Jesus instead of trusting in my logical arguments. May I find peace and acceptance in God through Jesus rather than seeking the approval of men. Save me or I die, Lord.

Gospel and the reference point

If wisdom, which is perfected in the gospel, is to have any impact in the world, it must be seen as the implication of that gospel. Far from removing the wisdom literature of the Old Testament from the concern of Christians, the gospel completes and interprets it. With the total perspective of Old and New Testaments we have the basis for understanding the fear of the Lord and how it brings us to a comprehensive view of reality. The nature of the unity of all things and the proper distinction between them are obscured once we have rejected the ultimate points of reference. The Christian mind begins with the being of God as Trinity. It is not just vaguely theistic in some unspecified way. To say, 'I believe in God' is not good enough unless it is the God of the Bible we are referring to. The secular mind has rejected this most significant reference point and has consequently cast a cloud of ignorance and folly over every area of its knowledge. Humanism defeats its own goal of the good of man. It cannot know what is the ultimate good of man since it has rejected the possibility of the God of the Bible existing. New gods have taken the place of the true God, and technology has been turned into a particularly tenacious twentieth-century idol. It is a very powerful god since it is the diversion of something that was at the centre of God's purposes for good.
-pp.547 Gospel and Wisdom (Goldsworthy Trilogy)

You can get your copy of Goldsworthy Trilogy from Koorong, Bookdepository, or Amazon.

Science and Christian faith

It was hard, but finished reading Gospel and Wisdom. I'll be posting a couple of quotes from the ending part of the book.

Because science and technology are expressions of the cultural mandate they must be affirmed and welcomed by Christians. Indeed, the Christian view of man and creation provides the scientist and technologist with a perspective of their pursuits which not only made them possible, but which should have prevented them from creating the monster. When the cultural mandate is accepted on the basis of revelation, the proper distinctions between God, man (scientists) and the world can be maintained. But when it ceases to be seen as mandate, that is, as task authorized by a superior it comes to be regarded as the natural extension of the autonomous man. Removed from its benign relationship to the order of the universe, it is adopted as the power base for all kinds of domination. The domination of man was intended to reflect the gracious shepherd rule of God, but it became corrupted into self-seeking power play. Wisdom urges us to go on struggling to translate the fear of the Lord as the beginning of the knowledge into the means of living by faith in the world. Its base in the doctrine of creation, and its emphasis on the practicalities of life here and now, provide a check against the wrongful use of an orientation towards the future life to our responsibilities in the present. Wisdom reminds us that the resurrection life will be reached by means of our pilgrimage through this life in this world.

- pp546-547 Gospel and Wisdom (Goldsworthy Trilogy)

Saturday, 22 January 2011


Sometimes I do a shadow boxing. Not a physical kind. Mine happens within my own mind. It usually goes like me imagining a sparring partner making a statement, and me trying to respond to that statement.

My shadow boxing partner: Christianity is crap!
Me: Well, yes and no. If you mean by Christianity a kind of religious pretension that you can get to heaven by attending a church, say the right things, and refrain from certain sins, you are right. Christianity is crap and below. But the Christianity as it is meant to be, the truth of Jesus, the living faith in Him, and the community of His redeemed people, then, no, Christianity is the best thing you could ask for in this world.

Partner: Ok, but church is really crap. I heard of enough horror in the church. They are just a bunch of hypocrites.
Me: Yes, and no.
Yes, there are plenty of horrible things that happened in churches, and by the churches. I tell you, the church I attend to isn't necessarily the nicest place you would want to be. Most of time, they are really nice, but once in a while, they will make you feel hurt and sin against you even. They are anything but a perfect people. Yet, I tell you, that Jesus called His church His bride. I wouldn't go around bad-mouthing the bride of the King. The bride is far from perfect, and we still have much to learn, and we should. But just be careful when you are speaking about the King's bride. The King loves His bride.

Partner: Nay, cut the crap. Jesus is no King. He's fake. He's the crappest of all!
Me: No, you are crap. Shut up. I might say yes and no for some things related to Christianity because there are always people involved. And people are sinners whether Christians or not. And so you will find "crappiness" in those things. But no. Jesus is good. He is perfect. He is sinless. He is better than you can ever imagine. That goes for me too. He is always better than I expect Him to be. He never deserves to be called "crap". But this amazing King endures such an insult even now. His grace endures. His mercy continues. But beware, there is a day coming. He will stop the mouths of slanderers and shine His light of glory in full. That's when my joy will be complete, to behold His beauty and worship Him. No, He is not crap. You really should get to know Him better before it's too late.

(Photo source: Eric Conveys Emotion)

Saturday, 8 January 2011

Control and unbelief

How pervasive is my unbelief.

God said that He is good and gracious, and He had demonstrated His character over and over again. Through creation, the seasons, and mornings after nights. He had proved His goodness towards me over and over again so intimately. And He had sent His Son to redeem this world full of rebels against Him, proving His gracious character once and for all. At a great cost to Himself, He showed His character is trustworthy. And yet, my lack of faith in God is more pervasive than I'd like to think. It is only when I do realise an incident, an expression of that unbelief, that I am appalled and frightened.

Here is one of those incidents.

I have had really wonderful past few days. It was my first time entering a new year with a wife. And I spent really good time with close friends who welcomed us into their house, nay, more into their lives and made us feel loved and encouraged. It was one of the best beginnings of the year I had.

But then, today, I suddenly felt as though I had to make sure that they knew I really enjoyed the time and want to do it again. I felt I had to tell them in a special way how much I appreciate their friendship.

Why, you might be thinking, that sounds good and right?

It was then when God illumined a corner of my heart to make me realise that my desire to let my friends know about my appreciation towards them was very much tainted with another desire that was more sinister. I need to have a control over this relationship I enjoyed in recent few days. I wanted to make sure it continued and I felt fearful at the thought of not being able to have such wonderful fellowship again in the future. I felt as though I needed to do something to make the relationship more concrete. I felt I needed to take control of this precious relationship that I enjoyed so I could have such a great fellowship again in the future.

But why? Why did I come to feel this way? How did I come to decide that I needed to take control of this relationship?

Did I earn this wonderful friends first place?
Was there anything that I did to make these friends come into existence? Did I cause this friendship? Did I create the wonderful, joyful, fun, and encouraging time myself?
No, no, no, and no.

I was only given a joy ride and before I knew it, I was riding in it. Not as a driver, but as a passenger. I'd rather be a passenger when I'm on a joy ride, not a driver. The driver's working while passengers are having fun.

So why try to take control of it now? Why feel the need to take the control of it now?

Answer: I do not trust that God would grant me such wonderful time in the future, unless I do something about it to secure it now.
I do not trust that God is full of grace and goodness that all these things that I enjoy are simply result of His overflowing kindness towards me.
I enjoyed these recent days, but why? I must've earned it by my effort. I did it! I somehow, by some kind of good deeds that I had done, I deserved their friendship and joyful time we had!

How wrong I was. And how good that I WAS wrong! All is gift, and all praise and glory is to Him who gives abundantly!

Oh, Lord, I believe that You are kind towards me because You are full of grace. Help my unbelief, and take control of my life.

(Photo source: photobucket)

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Responding to an atheist's provocation: I don't know how yet.

I saw a provocative slogan on the Richard Dawkins Foundation website.

I don't think a campaign with this slogan actually went live, but I'm not sure.

Science flies you to the moon. Religion flies you into buildings.

I didn't like it from the start. That other slogan, "There's probably no God, now stop worrying, and enjoy your life" was at least honest. This slogan plays on the common confusion among people about correlation and causality. See: and try to understand this cartoon.

Anyway, I thought about how I could best respond to this kind of slogan, and I am still thinking.
I thought of a couple of options so far:
1) Ignore it. Dismiss it. Avoid the confrontation.
This was my first reaction.
Obviously this is an intentionally written to be provocative. A friend from work told me it's a hyperbole. So how should I respond to a hyperbole? One option is ignoring it. They are attacking at their own time of choosing, with their own choice of words and medium. So? I could try to choose my own time, medium, words, whatever to present a case for Christianity against atheism or other world views.
This could be useful if I feel that I'm not ready to take on the particular provocation. I must learn to rest knowing that God's truth will remain even if I do not defend it. It is His truth that defends me on the last day, not the other way around, ultimately speaking.
2) But then, if I actually met someone who asked me about it personally, I'd probably ask him a few things and depending on that I might respond to him in a few different ways.
What would I ask?
One thing I would ask is this: What do you mean by religion? Define religion for me. Chances are, Christianity won't fit into your definition of religion. Or, your definition of religion will actually include the atheism, or it might even expose that you have a religion of your own called science. Ok, I'm not saying just because you trust science, you take science religiously. However, I know several people who do take their trust in science to the point where it can only described as a religion.

What other ways would you respond to it?

(Photo source: The Richard Dawkins Foundation)

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

King's English: let there be light

We tend to think of light and darkness as equal and opposite powers, but of course they’re not. A battle between light and darkness is over in an instant. Wherever light is present, the darkness must give way. Yet darkness has no power to push back in the other direction. Light shines. Darkness doesn’t darken. It can only have a shadowy existence. It is not a positive thing. It is a lack of a positive thing. And when Light shines, darkness is defeated.

So well put. But the whole point of the post is even better.

See it here: Let there be light.